making local government more ethical

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Robert Wechsler

It's difficult to show clearly that ethical government correlates with ethical conduct. However, last year Raymond Fisman and Edward Miguel came up with a study that does this: They studied parking tickets given to United Nations diplomats in Manhattan.

Because, until 2002, there was zero enforcement of parking rules for diplomats, they were given a carte blanche or, if you will, were tempted to act unethically (breaking...

Robert Wechsler

Election officials. Who in a democracy should be more above suspicion than election officials?

At the place where I vote, the line that is the required number of feet from the voting area is traditionally right along the near side of the sidewalk that runs along the edge of the school parking lot. When candidates, their supporters, and others come to hand out their sheets, hold their signs, and talk to voters, they stand on that sidewalk.

At the last election, for the town...

Robert Wechsler

Immigration is a new issue for municipalities. Or is it?

Last week, a federal judge struck down ordinances passed in Hazleton, PA that would harshly punish undocumented immigrants who tried to live or work there, as well as employers and landlords who provided them homes or jobs. Also last week, New Haven, CT began to hand ID cards out to...

Robert Wechsler

What a nice thing to wake up to: reading in the newspaper that at least some American institutions are using words like 'transparency' and 'accountability' as if they really meant it.

In an article in today's New York Times, we learn that foundations are now publicizing their failures as well as their successes. A consultant to foundations is quoted as saying, 'there's an...

Robert Wechsler

Gaining and retaining the public's trust in government is the principal reason given for passing ethics codes. But there is little talk beyond this about the concept of trust.

I just read a book called The Moral Foundations of Trust by Eric M. Uslaner (Cambridge University Press, 2002). This book's focus is on what the author calls 'generalized trust,' that is, the optimistic belief that people are basically trustworthy. However, the author also talks a lot about the other...

Robert Wechsler

Whenever someone dies in a village in Bangladesh, Gonoshasthaya Kendra, a health charity, holds a public post-mortem, according to an article in the July 7, 2007 issue of the Economist. 'The aim is not to blame or indict per se'bare-knuckled confrontation would alienate the government'but to remind public servants that someone is watching them, and that the negligent will be named and shamed.'

In the United States, when people want to do a public post-mortem involving...